[ kar-ik-tuh-ris-tik ]
See synonyms for: characteristiccharacteristicscharacteristically on

  1. Also char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal. pertaining to, constituting, or indicating the character or peculiar quality of a person or thing; typical; distinctive: Red and gold are the characteristic colors of autumn.

  1. a distinguishing feature or quality: Generosity is his chief characteristic.

  2. Mathematics.

    • the integral part of a common logarithm.: Compare mantissa.

    • the exponent of 10 in a number expressed in scientific notation.

    • the smallest positive integer n such that each element of a given ring added to itself n times results in 0.

Origin of characteristic

First recorded in 1655–65; from Greek charaktēristikós (see character, -istic)

synonym study For characteristic

2. See feature.

Other words for characteristic

Other words from characteristic

  • char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
  • non·char·ac·ter·is·tic, adjective
  • non·char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
  • qua·si-char·ac·ter·is·tic, adjective
  • qua·si-char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb
  • un·char·ac·ter·is·tic, adjective
  • un·char·ac·ter·is·ti·cal·ly, adverb

Words Nearby characteristic Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use characteristic in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for characteristic


/ (ˌkærɪktəˈrɪstɪk) /

  1. a distinguishing quality, attribute, or trait

  2. maths

    • the integral part of a common logarithm, indicating the order of magnitude of the associated number: the characteristic of 2.4771 is 2 Compare mantissa

    • another name for exponent, used esp in number representation in computing

  1. indicative of a distinctive quality, etc; typical

Derived forms of characteristic

  • characteristically, adverb

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Scientific definitions for characteristic


[ kăr′ək-tə-rĭstĭk ]

  1. The part of a logarithm to the base 10 that is to the left of the decimal point. For example, if 2.749 is a logarithm, 2 is the characteristic. Compare mantissa.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.